How has whaling come to be used as a talismanic symbol of Japanese identity and a touchstone of nationalism? Morikawa excels in debunking some of the myths frequently served up to justify the industry. Whaling advocates claim that the practice itself and consumption of whale meat are deeply embedded traditions in Japan, and assert that anti-whaling activists are guilty of cultural imperialism. Morikawa counters that modern commercial whaling bears little resemblance to the small-scale subsistence whaling that, until the dawn of the 20th century, was limited to certain coastal regions.
Japan's whale-eating culture was also very limited in scope and, according to Morikawa, is "an invented tradition, only lasting 20 years from the end of WWII to the early 1960s." During the U.S. occupation, whale meat became part of the national school lunch program, explaining why Japan's aging baby boomers evince a nostalgic nationalism over the issue.
The author draws our attention to the ICR-orchestrated media campaign aimed at convincing Japanese that whaling is part of their national identity. The ICR also tries to spur whale consumption, but to little avail. A major problem for whaling advocates is that Japanese consumers are not buying even heavily subsidized whale meat; one third of the meat harvested through "scientific research" remains unsold. This means that the proceeds from selling the meat do not cover the costs of conducting the whaling.
It is costly, both financially and in terms of public relations, to maintain growing stockpiles of whale meat that nobody wants to eat. Desperate to increase consumption, the ICR and MAFF are behind efforts to reintroduce whale meat to school lunch menus around the nation, putting school children at risk by serving them food laced with harmful toxins. In Morikawa's view, the media in Japan — with the sole exception of the Japan Times — has done little to educate the public about the problems of whaling and dangers of whale consumption, essentially toeing the ICR line. One can only hope that this is not another Minamata in the making.